An attempt by the San Diego Padres to acquire Mookie Betts may have stalled over a disagreement on the amount of money being exchanged.
Trade talks between the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres involving Mookie Betts have apparently hit a snag. While the Padres remain intent on prying the former MVP out of Boston, they have concerns over how his salary would inflate their payroll.
Betts set a new record for arbitration-eligible players with his $27 million salary for 2020, after which he’ll hit free agency. That’s a steep price to pay for a Padres club that is already on the edge of the budget they projected for this year.
To offset some of the cost of adding Betts to their payroll, San Diego has insisted on dumping the albatross contract of Wil Myers. According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the sides are haggling over how much of Myers’ contract the Red Sox would be forced to pay.
"“Myers is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, and the Red Sox are offering to assume about half that,” writes Acee. “Sources said the Padres would prefer to eat only about a quarter of the money owed Myers in order to take on Betts’ salary.”"
Boston understandably balked at the concept of taking on all of the money owed to Myers. While the average annual value of his contract means Myers counts for only about $14 million against the luxury tax, the approximate $13 million in savings isn’t nearly enough to get Boston under the tax threshold. The Red Sox can’t risk the nightmare scenario of trading Betts and still getting stuck in tax territory.
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Boston is currently projected to have a payroll of about $234.3 million, per Roster Resource. That puts them more than $26 million over the $208 million tax threshold. Trading Betts without taking back salary gets the Red Sox to their payroll goal but they’ll still have work to do if they agree to take any portion of the Myers contract off San Diego’s hands. Paying only half of Myers’ salary gets them within striking distance but absorbing 75 percent of the contract doesn’t move the needle nearly enough.
If trading Betts doesn’t do enough to help the Red Sox escape tax jail, the haul they receive in return better be worthwhile.
According to Acee’s report, the Padres are willing to include outfielder Manuel Margot or Josh Naylor and starting pitcher Cal Quantrill or Joey Lucchesi in the deal. Those MLB-ready assets would supplement a prospect from the padres highly-ranked farm system. Right-hander Luis Patino and catcher Luis Campusano are among the prospects the Red Sox are rumored to have interest in.
The Red Sox agreeing to take back more money in the deal should improve the package the Padres are willing to surrender. The major league talent probably wouldn’t change much. The offer would still include Myers with a fringe outfielder and back of the rotation starter. The prize highlighting the haul would be the prospect.
Complicating matters is that the Los Angeles Dodgers remain in the mix, pitting two NL West rivals against each other in the Betts sweepstakes. The Dodgers can afford to pay Betts without pawning off a bad contract, allowing Boston to save significantly more money without clogging their future payroll. That also presumably means the package of prospects they would surrender isn’t as appealing as what the Padres might give up.
Of course, the Red Sox could always hang on to Betts, see if they can make a run at the postseason with one of the best players in baseball, then re-evaluate their options at the trade deadline. Boston has payroll concerns and a need to restock their farm system but they aren’t in a position where they need to trade Betts. They’ll only move him if they get a good offer.
Finding an acceptable deal means balancing financial savings with the talent they would get in return. The sides remain engaged on trade discussions but at the moment, they appear to be far apart.